Ath Thorn, the embattled president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), said yesterday that he plans to call on his members—mostly garment factory workers—to help fund a $25,000 bail order that would keep him from being detained on allegations of incitement.
Questioned last week at the municipal court over allegations that he incited a violent strike, threw rocks and injured a worker at Phnom Penh’s SL Garment Factory last year, Mr. Thorn was told he would have to post $25,000 to avoid being held in pre-trial detention if he is formally charged.
“After Khmer New Year, we will collect the money from [union] members and garment workers to deposit this money for the court,” Mr. Thorn said by telephone yesterday.
“We aren’t sure of the amount yet. We just had a meeting with members and they said…we will collect the money. If we had a choice, we would talk to the court, because maybe that judge ordered too much of an amount,” he said.
Mr. Thorn is also embroiled in a separate corruption scandal, accused of embezzling $92,929 intended as a payout to union members—an allegation he denied under questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on April 2.
His request for financial help from members also comes days before a planned stay-at-home strike in the garment sector in which workers will demand a $160 minimum wage, along with the release of 21 protesters imprisoned in January.
Noun Piseth, a 33-year-old CCAWDU member and garment worker at the SL Factory, where the union last year led a weekslong strike for a number of demands, including better pay, said he had heard nothing about Mr. Thorn’s plan.
“I haven’t heard that Mr. Ath Thorn plans to collect money from members at SL,” he said yesterday.
“But I also have seen one activist from CCAWDU on April 8 come to give documents and ask factory workers to thumbprint on the document to support Ath Thorn, but I don’t know what the support is for,” he added.
Ouch Noeun, secretary-general of CCAWDU’s SL Factory branch, said Mr. Thorn plans to canvass 90 factories after the holidays to come up with the bail money.
“We will not force the workers to pay, but this donation is voluntary,” he said.